Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Separated by war, long-lost friends have a 'miracle' reunion 80 years later

Now that they've found each other again, more than 80 years after they shared their last hug in Berlin, there's no way Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana María Wahrenberg are drifting apart.

Every Sunday, Grebenschikoff and Wahrenberg, both 91, spend hours chatting on Zoom, and during the week they keep in touch by phone and email. Growing up in Germany, they were best friends, attending school and synagogue together. The girls were forced apart in 1939 when their families fled the Nazis, with Grebenschikoff going to Shanghai and Wahrenberg to Chile. "We did not want to separate," Wahrenberg told The Washington Post. "We loved each other very much."

They promised to keep in touch, but the distance was too great. The women survived the Holocaust, but lost many members of their extended families. Wahrenberg remained in Chile, while Grebenschikoff moved to the U.S. Both wrote memoirs and shared their testimonies and experiences publicly, and tried to find each other, but there was a problem: Ana María was known as Anne Marie in Berlin, while Betty was called Ilse, so they were looking under the old names.

Things finally came together in November, after Ita Gordon, a researcher from the USC Shoah Foundation, heard Wahrenberg speak. She was fascinated by her story, and while searching the foundation's archives for more information on Wahrenberg, Gordon discovered Grebenschikoff's recorded testimony from 1997. In the tape, Grebenschikoff asked for assistance finding her best friend, Wahrenberg, and when Gordon realized that she could actually help, she jumped into action, working with colleagues to connect the women. It was, Grebenschikoff told the Post, "such a miracle."

To Grebenschikoff, it feels like they "just picked up where we left off," and the women are looking forward to September, when Wahrenberg plans on visiting Grebenschikoff for Rosh Hashanah. Catherine Garcia